Meet the new Head of Tesco Labs

Meet the new Head of Tesco Labs

Last month, we reported that Tesco’s technology R&D arm, Tesco Labs, had appointed Jo Hickson as its new head. 

The venture has now posted online the following interview with Hickson, in which she discusses her career to date, why she joined Tesco Labs, the future of retail and the importance of mobile.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

A: For the last 10 years I’ve been leading innovation teams for large corporates in retail and the travel industry. I’ve also worked in product development for o2 Telefonica and the National Lottery. I started my career in marketing back when that simply meant creating radio, press and TV ads.

Q: What appealed to you about joining the Tesco Labs team?

A: There were three reasons I wanted to join.
1. The scale of Tesco means there is a huge opportunity for innovation to make a real impact on the retail industry, globally.
2. Joining a well-established, talented and multidisciplinary team.
3. I love retail!

Q: What have you learned in your first weeks in the role?

A: I knew Tesco was a big company but it is even more vast than I’d appreciated. There’s a lot of people to meet and get to know. Also, the team are working on projects that genuinely excite me – watch this space.

Q: Looking forward 20 years, what do you think retail will look like?

A: Again, what I liked about this role was that the scale of our business means we’ve got the opportunity to define the future of retail for consumers. So for me, it will be experiences that redefine convenience, immediacy and personalisation.

Q: Which innovators do you particularly admire?

A: Hedy Lamarr is the innovator I most admire. She was a beautiful Hollywood star in the 30s and 40s but had another passion – inventing. Her most important invention came during World War II, when she realised that radio-controlled torpedoes could be knocked off course.

Her solution was to invent and patent a frequency-hopping signal that was impossible to hack. Lamarr’s work was incorporated into early versions of Wi-Fi and today’s Bluetooth technology, the backbone of how we communicate.

Q: And finally, what technology could you not live without?

It’s a cliché but it is the mobile phone. And not really for calls anymore – it’s for podcasts, instant messaging, turning on my heating from anywhere, ordering food on the move, catching up on Netflix shows and Instagram – and so much more.

It’s easy for us to forget how far this technology has come in under 10 years. It is a veritable digital swiss army knife of useful tools. The future potential of 5G connectivity affording broadband speeds using new cellular tech is also one to watch.

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